Today we mark World No Tobacco Day and this year the focus is on “Tobacco and Heart Disease.” The goal is to highlight the important and often overlooked role of smoking cigarettes as a leading cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor.
Earlier this month, we attended the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health , held in Cape Town, South Africa--the first time on the African continent. While we celebrated the effort made by the global community to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) over the past decade, it was sobering to realize that a greatly intensified and sustained effort is required in the future. Business as usual will not suffice.
This blog first appeared on Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage
Adam Smith, the 18th century social philosopher and political economist, renowned as the father of modern economics, observed in his seminal work “The Wealth of Nations” that “sugar, rum, and tobacco are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life, [but] which are ... objects of almost universal consumption, and which are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.”
A new report on mental health in Ukraine offers a sobering picture of the often-ignored disease burden of mental disorders, which undermine human capital development and total wealth accumulation in a country. The World Bank Group estimates show that unaccounted “intangible capital” such as human capital, constitutes the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries, more than produced capital and natural resources.
Regulating tobacco use using excise taxation, restrictions on smoking in public places, and restrictions on youth access and sale of tobacco products is now a widely-accepted policy action to prevent its harmful health effects. The ruling by the United States Federal District Court that ordered the country’s four largest cigarette makers to make “corrective statements” to inform the public about the harms of cigarettes, including light and low-tar cigarettes, which began on November 26, 2017 for one year, using prime-time television commercials and full-page ads in newspapers, only confirms what is already known on the basis of accumulated evidence over the past half century: the manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery have led to addiction, ill health, and premature mortality and disability among smokers and among those exposed to secondhand smoke. And the recent decision by the Vatican to ban duty-free cigarette sales is a good example of how societal attitude towards tobacco use has changed: a sovereign state is willing to forego revenue from products that clearly harm people's health.
"Sugar, rum, and tobacco, are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life, [but] which are ... objects of almost universal consumption, and which are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation."
- Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)
World No Tobacco Day 2017 focuses on the links between tobacco use, tobacco control, and sustainable development. Does this mean that tobacco use is more than a public health issue? The answer is an emphatic yes, rooted in robust scientific evidence accumulated over the past five decades and country experiences worldwide. Let me explain.
Tobacco use poses an unparalleled health and economic burden worldwide. A new study found that the diseases caused by smoking account for US$ 422 billion in health care expenditures annually, representing almost 6% of global spending on health. Smoking causes close to 6 million deaths per year - more than the deaths from HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria combined. And the total economic cost of smoking after including productivity losses from death and disability amounts to more than US$ 1.4 trillion per year- equivalent in magnitude to 1.8% of the world’s annual GDP.
For 2016's World No Tobacco Day, celebrated today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are calling on countries to get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products. Why, may you ask?